When you bring your new baby home, you are exhausted and emotional, and all eyes are on you and the new baby. You are anxious, tired and want to do a good job. But if you want Dad to be involved, you need to let him know he is doing a good job too!
The post-partum period, which is a time of enormous life-change and potential stress, is often a huge wake-up call for both parents. They suddenly are responsible for a new life and overnight; their own lives have changed forever. More and more awareness about post-partum depression in the mother has led to effective diagnosis and treatment. But few people consider post-partum depression in fathers- even though they often experience financial strain, anxiety and feelings of isolation and inadequacy.
What can Mom do:
Studies show that Mothers play a critical role in determining how much fathers get involved in taking care of their infants. Fathers clearly get more involved when they are encouraged by their baby’s mom. Moms should praise the dad and ask them to help. Tell them that they make the baby happy and feel safe. Remind them how much they are supporting mom. Dad’s will respond and participate in caring for both you and the baby. Try to avoid getting impatient, rolling your eyes, or being critical of their care. That way, dads won’t retreat.
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And, no surprise, patterns get set up early. For example, if Dad is not waking up with the baby at night, many moms stop asking- but the resentment builds in the mom, and the disconnection builds in the dad. Keep asking for help- and rewarding dad with praise and encouragement.
What can Dad do:
A father has a critical role in establishing an early bond with the baby by not only playing with for the baby, but also sharing in the responsibilities of daily care with the mom. Many dads feel very nervous and insecure holding a newborn, or caring for them. They need practice and encouragement. But practice makes perfect. The more they hold the baby, talk and sing to the baby, and make eye contact with the baby even while nursing, the sooner your baby will learn the sound of Dad’s voice, recognize his unique face and find comfort in his presence.